Bolivia is a weird place, a place where after a while the out of the ordinary is taken for granted.
Its capital, La Paz is situated at over 4000m so planes almost have to ascend to land here!
Whilst being architecturally quite dull, it has an impressive setting. Our first view of the city was from a vast slum called “El Alto” on top of the rim of a huge kind of canyon in which the city covers the floor of and climbs up the sides. As with all of Bolivia so far it oozes colourful street life and South American character. Many Bolivians live below the poverty line which can be hard to take in, and it has minimal western influence compared to Peru and Ecuador.
Shops are simple and all seem to sell the same few things – so most of La Paz seems like one giant street market. You can buy absolutely anything on the street, from a grotesque dried llama foetus (for warding off evil spirits) to knocked-off black-market designer clothes.
The city is alive with constant hustle and bustle as the chola’s (Indian women who moved from the rural areas to work market stalls) rush around everywhere carrying things between market stalls, and minibuses choke the streets. These take the place of cars in a normal city and each one has a boy hanging out the door shouting a babble of incomprehensible place names. Sometimes there are so many boys shouting at once the street just becomes a mass of place names.
At 11pm stallholders pack their entire stalls up into a man-sized sack and put them on their backs, another 14 hour day over.